Dangers of Irregular Onward Movements from Lebanon

UNHCR continues to witness, and is alarmed by, the serious risks and tragic consequences faced by refugees who try to leave Lebanon through irregular journeys, such as by sea to Cyprus or Italy, or by plane to Russia, Libya or other destinations.

Those who attempt these journeys often end up in a far more difficult and dangerous situation than before they left, with no money, high debt, and no house to go back to. Many have died during such journeys.

Before deciding to make such a journey, please consider the serious risks involved for you and your family.

The posters, leaflets and videos developed by UNHCR to spread awareness about these risks are based on personal testimonies of refugees who have tried to take these journeys. Their message is the same – ‘Do not risk your life or those of your loved ones by taking irregular journeys!’

Please consider speaking to UNHCR or one of our partners about how best we can help you here in Lebanon instead of risking your life.

Risks of irregular journeys from Lebanon:

  • While many people have tried to cross to Cyprus, Italy or elsewhere in Europe very few reached their final destination, and some were returned to Lebanon against their will. Several boats needed to be rescued at sea, including after engine failures or running out of fuel.
  • In 2022, at least 185 individuals went missing or died while attempting to embark in these dangerous sea crossings, including children and entire families.
  • In previous onward movement attempts, some families have been separated after some family members were detained at the final destination or en route to their intended destination, while others were forced to return to Lebanon.
  • Some parents also send their children alone on irregular journeys, hoping their children will get a better future. However, children who are separated from their families are at high risk of being sold into forced labour, falling victims to sexual exploitation and abuse, ending up doing drug dealing and in some cases being victims of trade in organs.
  • The experiences that children endure during irregular boat journeys, have long-term psychological impacts on their growth and wellbeing. Even benefitting from education can become a challenge for them.
  • UNHCR is also aware of individuals who have travelled onwards to countries such as Libya or Russia intending to reach the EU. Of those who have travelled to Libya, we are aware of a number of deaths at sea of people who traveled from Lebanon, reflecting the dangers of this route. Many others are stopped or intercepted at sea by Libyan authorities and then returned to Libya where they are often transferred to detention in dire conditions and with high risks of being subject to extortion, torture and sexual violence.
  • You should be aware that individuals motivated by profit are making false promises to facilitate travel to other countries. Often these individuals do not care about your safety and wellbeing and are often not telling the truth about the many risks involved in the journey. There is also a risk of being kidnapped by smugglers for ransom.
  • Those who manage to reach another country still face the risk of being sent back to Lebanon or to their country of origin upon arrival. This also applies to those who departed Lebanon legally and attempted to transit onwards towards their final destination from another country. They may also face risks of being detained or stranded in inhumane conditions for prolonged periods of time with limited access to food, water, medical or sanitary facilities. In such situations it is often difficult to obtain help as UNHCR and other organizations have limited (and often no) access to people in these circumstances.
  • It is also important to consider that foreigners departing from Lebanon may be issued a re-entry ban and thus may not be able to return, including to rejoin their family in Lebanon, and may be at risk of deportation.

Please contact UNHCR for counselling and information on the support available in Lebanon. We remind that all UNHCR and its partners’ services and assistance are provided free of charge.

Should you have any questions or concerns when in Lebanon, please call UNHCR at 04726111.

You can also reach out to the Outreach Volunteers in your area who can refer you to appropriate services.

Related Information

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